The Edmond Sun

December 29, 2012

A running QB will be part of OU's future

John Shinn
CNHI News Service

NORMAN — Christmas presents were opened around the world this morning. In college football, there’s one stocking stuffer every team is trying to acquire: the mobile quarterback who can not only throw the football but run with it, too.

Oklahoma will face the best of the lot from the 2012 season when it meets Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium on Jan. 4 in Arlington, Texas. Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel threw for 3,419 yards this year and ran for another 1,181. He won the Heisman Trophy, too.

“He’s phenomenal with the football, and he can create so many issues,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “He can run you ragged. I’ve never seen anyone improvise and create like he can. Anytime you lead the Southeastern Conference in yards and points in your first year, what more do you really need to say about the guy?”

The same thing OU’s said about mobile quarterbacks all season: they’re a defensive nightmare.

Defenses are designed to do many things, but most are based on having more people around the ball than can be blocked. A running quarterback drops that advantage from two to one.

It’s something the Sooners haven’t utilized on an every-down basis. Quarterback Landry Jones, who makes his 50th and final career start next month, has never finished a season with positive rushing yards.

Jones, who rushed for negative 103 yards this season, joined Kansas quarterback Dayne Christ as the only Big 12 signal-callers to lead their teams in passing and not finish the season with positive rushing yards.

Historically, Jones and Christ are not unique. The last OU quarterback to finish a season with positive rushing yards was Sam Bradford, who rushed with 47 yards in 2008. He finished his career with 35 career rushing yards.

That could be the biggest change to OU’s offense heading into next season.

OU coach Bob Stoops has thus far declined to name Blake Bell OU’s quarterback heading into the 2013 season. There’s still a quarterback competition he must go through with Drew Allen, Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight. The ability to throw the ball will be the deciding factor.

“I think for a long time here we’ve wanted a guy that can make decisions, push the ball down the field and get the ball to the skill players. That’s never going to change here,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “Having a guy that has the ability to extend plays with his feet is something that we put a value on as well. That doesn’t mean he’s a ‘dual-threat guy’ at all.”

However, Heupel recruits OU’s quarterbacks. The four he has on campus all have a trait Jones lacks.

“All of them can run,” Stoops said.

It doesn’t mean OU’s offense will drastically change after the Cotton Bowl. Blake Bell has rushed for 24 touchdowns the past two seasons, but OU’s not going to spend entire games with its short-yardage personnel on the field.

When plays break down, having a quarterback who can leave the pocket and turn into a running threat is an element the Sooners have lacked.

“If there’s a guy that has athleticism with that, then that’s obviously an added bonus,” Heupel said.

Despite all the enormous offensive totals the Sooners have put up since 2007, the running quarterback hasn’t been part of the equation.

That will change after the Cotton Bowl.